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St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver shuts down neonatal intensive care unit due to COVID-19 outbreak

Last Updated Jul 17, 2020 at 7:31 pm PDT


The NICU at St. Paul's Hospital has been shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak

One infant has tested positive but isn't showing any symptoms

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The neonatal intensive care unit at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s hospital has been shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

It wasn’t initially clear how many people were affected by the outbreak, however, the provincial health officer offered more information during Friday’s COVID-19 update.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says one infant has tested positive, but isn’t showing any symptoms, and less than 10 people were exposed.

“Most young children, even infants, even infants in the intensive care unit do very well with [COVID-19],” Henry says.

She says contact tracing is ongoing to understand how the coronavirus was introduced to the unit.

“There are a number of families and staff who had been contacts who are now isolated. Everybody involved is being monitored carefully by Vancouver Coastal Health,” she says, adding families are isolating together.

Noting the investigation is ongoing, she says none of the infants in the NICU have worrisome or severe symptoms of the illness.

The provincial health officer also explains the unit in St. Paul’s is more of an open room and the bassinets were about six feet apart, but there were not any protective barriers between them.

“So that meant there was potential for people who were in the NICU to be exposed. So that’s why we’re watching very carefully and why the NICU has been closed. But I do believe it is a very low-risk scenario for others who were in the NICU with the people who were cases.”

Vancouver Coastal Health says patients in the NICU have been transferred to a satellite unit. The NICU is separate from the maternity ward, which remains open.

“A Vancouver Coastal Health Medical Health Officer is leading the response and is working closely with the staff at St. Paul’s and Providence Health Care to ensure appropriate precautions are in place for the safety of all,” a statement from Providence Health Care says in an emailed statement. “This includes new protocols requiring parents visiting their babies in the NICU to wear a mask and sign a visitor log.”

It adds “strict infection control protocols” are in place when any time of outbreak is reported. As well, Providence says there’s “no evidence of risk to patients elsewhere in the hospital.”

Providence, which manages St. Paul’s Hospital, says VCH is taking the lead on managing the outbreak.

The outbreak was first reported on Thursday.

-With files from Monika Gul